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Jesse Lewis (The David J. Adams) Claim (United States v. Great Britain).

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. Cims. Arbitration under Special Agreement of August 18, 1910, 1921, Nielsen Rep. 526. 6. U.N.R.I.A.A. 85.

Brief Fact Summary.

According to the United States (P), the interpretation given to the Treaty of London of 1818 by the Canadian government was not correct.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The determinations, from an international perspective of how the provisions of a treaty are to be interpreted and applied to the facts are the duties of an international tribunal.


In the Treaty of London of 1818, the United States (P) agreed that its citizens would not fish in Canadian (D) waters. Precisely in 1886, an American fishing schooner was seized by Canadian (D) authorities for allegedly violating the Treaty. After finding that the vessel had indeed violated the Treaty and Canadian legislation, A Canadian (D) court condemned the vessel.
Based on this judgment, the United States (P) sought damages from the British government (D) on the grounds that the seizure of the schooner was wrongful based on an erroneous interpretation of the Treaty. Britain (D) however posited that the Arbitral Tribunal was not competent to re-examine the Canadian (D) court’s interpretation.


Is it the duty of an international tribunal to determine, from an international perspective, how he provisions of a treaty are to be interpreted and applied to the facts?


Yes. The determination, from an international perspective, of how the provisions of a treaty are to be interpreted and applied to the facts is the duties of an international tribunal. The unilateral interpretation of a bilateral contract by one party is not binding on the other party. The fact that the international was given by legislative or judicial authority does not make it enforceable on the other party.


The Tribunal found that the Canadian (D) did not err in its interpretation. Some courts have held that unilateral interpretations of treaties have only an advisory effect. Others opine that such interpretations are to be seen as amendments to the treaty.

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